Imagining the 2018 Suzuki RM-Z450 Supermoto

It is a tremendous shame that the options for a road legal supermoto for are so limited, with the venerable Suzuki DR-Z400SM being the only offering in the 450cc on-road class. For virtually a decade, Suzuki has left the DR-Z basically unchanged – as it has done with many of its sport models – so we would love to see Suzuki and other manufacturers give this space more attention (a hat tip to Husqvarna for bringing the track-only FS450 to market, long with the 701 Supermoto). Although you can wake-up the DR-Z400 with a few simple modification, and there are a bevy of aftermarket kits that can punch the 398cc machine out in size, what we really want from Suzuki is a proper 450cc street supermoto – one that doesn’t stray too far from the brand’s current strong motocross offering. So, when we saw this little bit of Photoshop work by the folks at the German Suzuki dealership of DSR-Suzuki, we got a little excited.

Honda & Hitachi Join Forces on Electric Vehicle Motors

News out Japan sees Honda and Hitachi starting a joint venture that will focus on providing motors for electric vehicles. The two companies signed today what they call a “memorandum of understanding, which is the Japanese business version of getting a promise ring to start a future company together. The still unnamed joint venture will be located in Hitachinaka City in the Ibaraki Prefecture, and be initially capitalized with ¥5 billion (~$44 million). Honda Motor Co. and Hitachi Automotive Systems hope to finalize this deal by March 2017, and the new company will have subsidiaries in China and the United States – both of which will have sales and production capabilities.

US Lawmaker Introduces Bill to Close the EPA by 2018

A bill has been presented to the United States House of Representatives that would seek the closure of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) by 2018. Proposed by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R – Florida), HB 861 will likely be a mixed bag for motorcycle enthusiasts, as it will deregulate environmental restrictions set at the federal level, leaving states to draft or adopt their own provisions, which will likely have a fracturing effect on the regulatory market for motorcycles. But, it will also mean the abolition of EPA regulations that many motorcyclists oppose, like the blending of ethanol in our fuel, and restrictions on noise, emissions, and vehicle modifications.

KTM Invests in Heads-Up Display Company NUVIZ

Heads-up display (HUD) company NUVIZ just took a strategic investment from Pierer Industrie AG, the company behind KTM, Husqvarna, WP Suspension, and others. Today’s news is quite a catch for the San Diego based technology startup, and it bodes well for NUVIZ to bring its heads-up display technology to market. As such, NUVIZ hopes to have a heads-up display unit and connected rider system available in the first half of 2017. NUVIZ has raised roughly $9 million to date, via equity and debt, and our sources tell us that KTM’s purchase into the company has contributed to the lions’s share of that amount – upwards of $5 million, along with a seat on NUVIZ’s board of directors.

Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team Debuts

In an airplane hangar in Austria, Honda’s World Superbike team unveiled its wings…that is to say, the Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team debuted in the energy drink’s Hangar-7 facility in Salzburg today. As the name implies, Red Bull will be the title sponsor for Nicky Hayden’s and Stefan Bradl’s World Superbike title bid this year, on the updated 2017 Honda CBR1000RR SP2. This is the first time that Red Bull has been a title sponsor in the WorldSBK paddock, though the energy drink company’s livery can be seen on variety of bodywork throughout motorsport. “It’s a new year with a new bike, new title partner and new teammate, so there are definitely many changes ahead and a lot of things to look forward to,” said former MotoGP Champion Nicky Hayden.

PJ Jacobsen Gives His First Impressions of MV Agusta

PJ Jacobsen will once again be the sole American representation in World Supersport this year. The New Yorker had his first taste of his MV Agusta F3 in the dry while at the Jerez test, and came away suitably impressed by the bike that has won eight races in the hands of Jules Cluzel in recent years. The 23-year-old tested the bike in Jerez last year in what was seen as a shootout for the ride, but on a damp track he didn’t get a real feel for the bike. “Today was my first day on the bike this year,” said Jacobsen. “I did half a day on the MV last November in Jerez, but it was half wet, half dry so today was good to get out there. It was fully dry so I learned a lot and I’m quite happy with it. The bike is totally different to what I’ve ridden in the past, but the team works really well and they’ve impressed me.”

Check Out the 2017 Honda RC213V

The MotoGP launch season is still upon us, and now that we have seen the teams and bikes from Ducati, Suzuki, and Yamaha – it is time for Honda to take the wraps off the team its campaigning for its title defense. Debuting the 2017 Honda RC213V at a press event in Indonesia, not much has changed outwardly for the 240+ horsepower GP bike, though there a subtle differences to be seen, if you look closely and compare it to last year’s bike. The Repsol Honda fairings cover the biggest change that we know of, as reports from the test tracks confirm that Honda is experimenting with a “big-bang like” firing order on its V4 engine, a change from the “screamer” configuration of last season, which was handful for Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa to manage.

2016 Was A Very Good Year for Husqvarna

Last year proved to be a tough year for many brands, especially those with operations in the United States, but that wasn’t the case for Husqvarna. The rebooted Swedish brand is seeing good life while under its Austrian ownership. Making 2016 a very good year for Husqvarna, the brand is reporting a sales increase of a whopping 43% over 2015’s sales numbers. That is no small feat for Husqvarna, as 2015 was already a record year for the dirt-focuses brand, where it saw a 32% increase. Of course in many ways, up is the only direction Husqvarna can go, after its purchase by Pierer Industrie AG. Still, Husqvarna’s figure of 30,700 sold motorcycles in 2016 is a marked improvement from the near 10,000 units it was producing while part of BMW Motorrad.

2017 Suzuki GSX-RR Debuts in Malaysia

Debuting this weekend in Malaysia, the ECSTAR Suzuki MotoGP team has unveiled its team and livery for the 2017 season, which will see Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins riding the update Suzuki GSX-RR race bike. Suzuki has already shown that it has a bike capable of hunting for podiums; and on its best days, it can be a race-winner as well. For the 2017 season though, the Japanese brand hopes to build upon its success in 2016. As such, the ECSTAR Suzuki team has high hopes with the arrival Andrea Iannone, hoping that “Maniac Joe” can add some more wins to Suzuki’s tally. Looking long-term too, the addition of Alex Rins could be strong investment by Team Manager Davide Brivio, with Rins being one of Moto2’s top talents.

OEMs Are Trying to Block “Right to Repair” Laws

Asphalt & Rubber readers should be familiar with how attempts have been made to use the Digital Millennium Right Act (DMCA) as means of limiting how you can work on your vehicles, including your motorcycle. These attempts first started in 2015, and were pushed heavily by John Deere and the automobile lobby. Thankfully, last year the the Librarian of Congress allowed exemptions for vehicles to be applied to the DMCA, which will be in effect for the next two years. Now, the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) – a group that represents the interests of motorcycle manufacturers in the United States – is putting pressure on state legislatures and encouraging them to block “Right to Repair” bills that would codify the exemptions made to the DMCA.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP 2014: Valentino Rossi – 2nd

12/31/2014 @ 11:59 am, by David Emmett6 COMMENTS

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For the next part of our review of the 2014 season, we continue our count down of the top 10 finishers in MotoGP. After yesterday’s look at Marc Marquez, today we turn our attention to the runner up in the 2014 MotoGP championship, Valentino Rossi: 

2nd – 295 points – Valentino Rossi

Six races. That was the deadline Valentino Rossi had given himself. After the first six races, he would make a decision on whether he was still fast enough, or it was time to hang up his leathers.

The goal was to be fighting for podiums and wins. If he could not do that, he felt he did not want to be racing. The fact that the sixth race of the season was at Mugello was ominous. If you had to choose a place for Valentino Rossi to announce his retirement, that would be it.

The season started off well, with a second place at Qatar, but with Marc Márquez just back from a broken leg, Jorge Lorenzo crashing out, and Dani Pedrosa struggling for grip, that didn’t quite feel like a true measure of his ability.

Texas was a disaster, with severe tire wear, then at Argentina, Rossi came home in fourth, just as he had done so often last year. His string of fourth places in 2013 were what had prompted Rossi’s doubts about carrying on, so many journalists and fans feared his mind was made up.

Rating the Riders of MotoGP 2014: Marc Marquez – 1st

12/29/2014 @ 12:01 pm, by David Emmett19 COMMENTS

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As 2014 draws to a close and 2015 approaches, it is time to take a look back at the 2014 season. Over the next few days, we’ll be reviewing the performances of the top 10 riders in the 2014 MotoGP championship, commenting on notable riders outside the top 10, and discussing the cream of Moto2 and Moto3. First, the top 10 MotoGP men, starting with with the 2014 champion:

1st – 362 points – Marc Márquez

By the end of 2013, Marc Márquez had convinced just about everyone that he was the real deal. The doubters who remained held on to a single argument: first, let’s see if he can repeat.

Winning a championship may be incredibly hard, defending it is doubly so. In the past twenty years, on Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi have done so.

Things started inauspiciously, Márquez breaking a leg while training at the dirt track oval in Rufea, near where he lives. With five weeks to recover before the first race at Qatar, and forced to miss testing at Sepang and Phillip Island, this was far from ideal preparation.

It did not matter, though: Márquez held off a resurgent Valentino Rossi while others crashed out, and won an exciting first race of the season. As his injured leg recovered, so Márquez got better, winning by comfortable margins at Austin, Argentina, Jerez and Le Mans.

The fans and media talked of records, by Doohan and Agostini, and the prospect of a perfect season – winning all eighteen races – started to be discussed.

Video: Luc1 Motorsports’ 2014 Supermoto Season

12/26/2014 @ 5:07 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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One of the winningest supermoto teams on the FIM circuit, Luc1 Motorsport also happens to be one of the most talented teams at promoting itself on the internet.

While 2014 was a difficult year for Luc1, especially in the FIM S1 class, the team draws some positives from the season. For us, it means some awesome supermoto footage of racers backing it in, clearing jumps, and banging handlebars. Enjoy, after the jump!

Analyzing MotoGP Engine Usage in 2014

12/05/2014 @ 10:44 pm, by David Emmett14 COMMENTS

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When the rules limiting the number of engines each MotoGP is allowed to use were first introduced, their usage was followed hawkishly.

After pressure from veteran US journalist Dennis Noyes and myself, and with the assistance of Dorna’s incredibly efficient media officer, IRTA and Dorna were persuaded to publish the engine usage charts.

These were pored over constantly, searching for clues as to who might be in trouble, who may have to start from pit lane, and who would manage until the end of the season. How the world has changed since then.

Recall: 2014 Yamaha YZF-R6 for Wheel Hardness

12/04/2014 @ 1:19 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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Yamaha Motor Co. USA is recalling certain 2014 Yamaha YZF-R6 motorcycles because the front and rear wheels may have been manufactured with insufficient hardness.

The recall only affects YZF-R6 motorcycles that were manufactured between August 1, 2014, to September 1, 2014 – which makes for roughly 28 units being affected.

Because of the insufficient hardness, the wheel bearings may loosen and shift, or the wheel may lose its shape and air may leak from around the bead on the tire, thus resulting in a crash.

Race Highlights from the 2014 Macau GP

11/21/2014 @ 1:24 am, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The 48th annual Macau Grand Prix was underway this past weekend, rounding out the 2014 road racing season, all the way on the other side of the world from the normal Irish and Manx roadways.

As much of a spectacle as its European counterparts, the Macau GP is set in the downtown area of the Special Administrative Region of Macu, and is proper elbow-to-elbow motorcycle racing.

A spectacle to see with the tight corners and dense cityscape, we regrettably didn’t cover the race this year due to a communication error on my part with our correspondent (my pay has been docked accordingly).

To try and at least make up for that error, we have for you the video highlights of the race, which Stuart Easton won quite comfortably, bringing his tally of Macau GP wins up to four now.

KTM Sets Sales Record During First-Half of 2014

09/08/2014 @ 6:20 am, by Jensen Beeler11 COMMENTS

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KTM continues to challenge BMW Motorrad as the top European motorcycle manufacturer (by sales volume), and has set a company record for sales in the first half of this year.

Selling 70,469 units in total, KTM is just shy of the 70,978 mark left by BMW Motorrad during the same sales period, so it will be interesting to see if the Austrian brand can close the gap in the final six months, as it has done the previous two years.

Friendly competition aside, the news is quite positive for KTM. The six-month sales figure represents a nearly 28% increase in unit volume, while top-line revenue is up 17.6% (€410.3 million, a record as well) and bottom-line income (EBIT) is up whopping 82.6% (€33.6 million). KTM has also increased its ranks by 204 people during the first half of 2014.

BMW Q2 2014 Sales Up 5.1% – Another Record Quarter

08/05/2014 @ 5:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler2 COMMENTS

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BMW Motorrad’s second-quarter sales results are in, and the German brand has not only another record quarter to report, but also an all-time six-month top-sales record as well.

Selling 42,259 units in Q2 2014, BMW Motorrad sales are up 5.1%, with revenue up 11.2% to €528 million (€55 million EBIT). This sales volume represents an all-time second-quarter high for BMW motorcycles sales.

The news also makes the first half of 2014 the best six-month period, in the 90 years of BMW Motorrad’s history, of BMW motorcycle sales, with revenue up 9.8% to €1 billion, and unit sales up 9.3% to 70,978 units.

US Motorcycle Sales Up 4.0% in Q2 2014

08/01/2014 @ 3:17 pm, by Jensen Beeler1 COMMENT

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The US economy has been slow to recover, and so too has the US motorcycle market. With first-quarter sales down 0.3% this year though, it looked like the US motorcycle market was about to flatline.

Thankfully, that has not been the case in Q2 of 2014, as the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) is proud to report that US motorcycle sales are up 4.0% in the second quarter of this year.

Selling 169,111 units in Q2 2014 (6,585 more than in 2013), motorcycles sales in the US so far this year are now up 2.6%, with 263,833 units sold so far in 2014.

Ducati Sales Up 3% for the First Six Months of 2014

07/28/2014 @ 4:32 pm, by Jensen Beeler4 COMMENTS

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Could 2014 be another record year of sales for Ducati? If the first six months are any indication, maybe so, as the Bologna brand has reported a 3% increase in sales thus far for the year.

Ducati has sold 26,740 motorcycles so far this year, worldwide, and is aiming to top its all-time record of 44,287 units by the end of the year. Additionally, orders for the month of June were up 11%, causing Ducati to be optimistic about its performance in 2014.